Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 22

Contemporary Music Review

ISSN: 0749-4467 (Print) 1477-2256 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/gcmr20

Awakening Dead Time: Adorno on Husserl,


Benjamin, and the Temporality of Music
Stephen Decatur Smith
To cite this article: Stephen Decatur Smith (2012) Awakening Dead Time: Adorno on Husserl,
Benjamin, and the Temporality of Music, Contemporary Music Review, 31:5-6, 389-409, DOI:
10.1080/07494467.2012.759417
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07494467.2012.759417

Published online: 12 Apr 2013.

Submit your article to this journal

Article views: 402

View related articles

Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at


http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=gcmr20
Download by: [University College Cork]

Date: 17 October 2016, At: 06:36

Contemporary Music Review


Vol. 31, Nos. 56, OctoberDecember 2012, pp. 389409

Awakening Dead Time: Adorno on


Husserl, Benjamin, and the Temporality
of Music
Stephen Decatur Smith

This essay studies the relationship between Adornos philosophy of music and his critique of
phenomenology. It argues that the understanding of historical experience that Adorno
develops in his reading of phenomenology casts light on his understanding of the
experience of music as well, especially the experience of musical time. It proceeds in
three parts. First, it sketches two moments in Adornos critique of Husserl. Second, it
relates this critique to the thought of Walter Benjamin. Third, it contrasts Adornos
conception of musical time with Husserls account of time in his On the
Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time. These readings show that
Adorno models musical time on what Benjamin calls Messianic time; that Adorno
opposes musical time to what he calls empirical time; that Adorno models empirical
time on Benjamins concept of phantasmagoria; and that Adorno sees this
phantasmagoric temporality reflected in Husserls phenomenology.
Keywords: Adorno; Benjamin; Husserl; Beethoven; Time; Phenomenology

The whole extent of the tones duration or the tone in its extension then stands
before me as something dead, so to speaksomething no longer being vitally generated, a formation no longer animated by the generative point of the now but continuously modified and sinking back into emptiness.
Edmund Husserl (1991, p. 371)
The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been
smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise.
Walter Benjamin (1968, p. 257)

In his Beethoven manuscripts, Theodor Adorno sketches an analysis of Beethovens


Trio in B-flat Major, Opus 97, the Archduke. He describes this work as an example of
what he calls Beethovens extensive type, which he opposes to an intensive type that
ISSN 0749-4467 (print)/ISSN 1477-2256 (online) 2012 Taylor & Francis
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07494467.2012.759417

390

S.D. Smith

appears in other works by Beethoven. The distinction between these two types, he
writes, lies in the relationship of music to time (2002, p. 89). On the one hand, the
intensive type aims at a contraction of time (2002, p. 89). This, he claims, is the
true symphonic type and the true classical type (2002, p. 89). As an example of
the intensive, he cites especially the first movement Beethovens Fifth Symphony.
On the other hand, Adorno claims that [a]bdication before time, and the shaping
of this abdication, make up the substance of the extensive type (2002, p. 90). Extensive
works are thus characterized by a renunciation of the symphonic mastery of time;
their gesture is that of setting time free, as if with an exhalation of breath ; in
them, time claims its right (2002, p. 91).
In his reading of the Archduke, Adorno locates this extensive relation to time in
what he takes to be an unusual structure in the first movements development and
recapitulation. He argues that the retransition to the recapitulation is deliberately
over-large, but also that the development takes a long time to gather momentum
(2002, p. 94). As a result, he claims,
the gigantic development actually contains only seventeen bars of development; all
the rest is introduction and retransition; that is: [] nineteen bars of introduction
and sixty (!!) bars of retransition (2002, p. 94).1

What is achieved by this treatment of the development? Adorno asks (2002, p. 94).
First, he answers, it negates the effect of an intensive development, which contracts
the experience of time, and produces unity. In the Archduke, the development is
thus stripped of its dynamic quality and tension, the dynamic middle section
being reduced to an episode (2002, p. 94). Second, however, this configuration
of the development also changes its relationship to time in the sense of memory
or retention. The power of the development, Adorno writes, is really established
only retrospectively, by the long retransition (2002, p. 94). In the Archdukes first
movement, the effect of a development which never actually took place is reconstructed. Adorno takes this retrospective movement to be exemplary of Beethovens
extensive type in general:
The whole of the orientation of Beethovens extensive type is that of remembrance:
the music does not, like a classical piece, take on its meaning within the contracted
present, the moment, but only as something already past (2002, p. 95).

Adornos analysis here is not concerned with meaning in the sense of a subjective
meaning that Beethoven somehow encoded in the work. Nor is this analysis, or this
moment of this analysis, concerned primarily with treating the Archduke as an
encrypted reflection of the historical moment in which it was produced. If Adornos
account of temporality in the Archduke is ultimately to play such a role, then, in
the reading that has been reconstructed above, this labor of decryption has not yet
begun. Instead, Adornos analysis here is concerned primarily with experiencethe
experience of music, and especially the experience of musical time.2 Although

Contemporary Music Review

391

Adorno deals closely with Beethovens score, he treats it, not as the gateway to an ideal
object, but rather as a script of possible experience. And in this sense, his analysis here
seems distant form hermeneutics, and closer indeed to a form of phenomenology.
In this light, the present study will be concerned with the relationship between
Adornos philosophy of music, and the critique of phenomenology that he developed
in his early writings and returned to consistently for the rest of his life. These two
strains of Adornos thought, it will argue, converge in a broader critique of historical
experience, which Adorno inherits in its broadest contours from the work of Walter
Benjamin. Thus, this study will argue that, in phenomenology, and especially in the
work of Edmund Husserl, the founder of modern phenomenology, Adorno sees a
the right appearance of the wrong world, or a faithful description of ossified forms
of experience that have come to seem falsely eternal, their history shorn away, their
potentiality suppressed (1984, p. 236; translation modified). In music, however, he
sees a script of possible experience that can either reinforce these forms of experience,
or brush them against the grain, igniting untimely experiences of recollection and
possibility.
This chapter will proceed in three parts. First, it will sketch two of the central moments
of Adornos critique of Husserl, drawing these moments from passages in which this critique appears within Adornos writings on music. Second, it will demonstrate the manner
in which Adorno derives this critique of the thought of Walter Benjamin. This account
will focus especially on Benjamins concept of phantasmagoria and his philosophy of
history. Third, it will contrast Adornos conception of musical time with the account
of time that appears in Husserls On the phenomenology of the consciousness of internal
time (18931917; published in 1928). This last section will argue that, while Husserl
treats past events as mythically unchanging identities, embalmed in retention and
memory, Adorno sees in music the possibility of an experience in which the past may
awaken to a new and unforeseen life. We have already seen Adorno locate this structure
of retroactive awakening in the Archduke trio. In what follows, we will see also that he
transposes this thought directly from Benjamins philosophy of history.
1. Adorno and Phenomenology
Edmund Husserl describes phenomenology as a science of the essence of consciousness, which develops a first-person descriptive account of the invariant essential
structures of the total stream of mental processes (1999b, p. 326). In this sense, Husserls phenomenology investigates that which is essential, unchanging, and necessary
in any conscious experience whatsoever. It pursues this investigation by way of a
method that Husserl calls reduction, which he describes as a certain refraining
from judgment which is compatible with the unshakeable conviction of truth
(1998, p. 60). 3 In performing the reduction, the phenomenologist suspends (or parenthesizes, or puts out of action) all of her normal beliefs or presuppositions (her
normal positings or judgments) about the phenomena of her experience (1998,
p. 60). The purpose of this change in attitude is to shift the phenomenologists

392

S.D. Smith

attention away from what she experiences and towards the way that she experiences
it. Once this turning of regard is accomplished, she can then describe the essential
structures that her experience entails (1998, p. 131). It is important that, for Husserl,
this investigation is concerned, not with the empirical psyche, but rather with what
he takes to be the transcendental consciousness that makes possible any experience
whatsoever.
Like many of his contemporaries, Adorno began his career with a study of Husserl: his
doctoral dissertation, submitted in 1924, was entitled The Transcendence of the Thingly
and the Noematic in Husserls Phenomenology. During his years in Oxford (19341937),
Adorno developed a sustained critique of Husserl, which he later reworked and published
as his Against epistemology: Towards a metacritique of phenomenological antinomies (1956).
The main points of this critique also reappear in several of Adornos late works, especially
his Negative Dialectics (1966). Throughout these writings, Adornos engagement with
Husserl is broad but not exhaustive. Especially in his Against Epistemology, the most sustained of his texts on Husserl, he cites or reads closely passages from Logical Investigations,
Ideas I, Cartesian Meditations, and Formal and Transcendental Logic. His published
remarks on Husserl, however, do not extend to posthumous publications such as Husserls
Ideas II or The Crisis of the European Sciences. Similarly, he makes no mention of the extensive Husserl Nachlass. If this selection colors, even skews, Adornos critique of Husserl, he
offers no apology. Comprehensiveness, he writes, was never my aim (1984, p. 2). Rather,
Adorno treats his reading of Husserl as the stage for a broad critique of historical experience in general.
We may begin to examine this critique through two moments in which it appears
within Adornos writings on music.4 First, in his Philosophy of New Music, Adorno
writes that Stravinskys kinship with the exactly contemporary philosophical movement of phenomenology is unmistakable:
In both cases, the mind is caught in the delusion that in its own spherethat of
thought and artit could escape the curse of being merely mind, merely reflection,
and not Being itself (2006, p. 107).

In this passage, Adorno locates in Stravinsky and Husserl what he calls a failed breakout.5 In Adornos eyes, Husserl, like Stravinsky, tries and fails to break out of modes of
thought and experience that treat objects solely as examples of preexisting concepts,
categories, or forms of life, and that, in so doing, negate or deny objects historical
singularity. A consciousness that is thus constrained thinks it reaches to the object
itself (Being itself) even as it remains bound within its own historical determinants
(thus remaining merely reflection, merely mind).
Second, Adorno mentions phenomenology again in his Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy. Mahlers music, he writes
is not, as in the contemplation of essences in the contemporary phenomenology, for
example, becalmed by images, but constrains them to a movement that is finally that
of the history that rapt immersion in images would so gladly forget (1996, p. 47).

Contemporary Music Review

393

Here, Adorno implicitly charges Husserl with failing to account for the historical nature
of the consciousness he describes. The essence of consciousness, Adorno argues,
cannot be timeless and ahistorical; rather, it must be something that has come to be
what it is, emerging and transforming across long histories of human life. Husserls
phenomenology would gladly forget this history; Mahlers music, however, constrains the movement of history to appear. In what follows, it will be significant
that, in the resonance between Husserl and Stravinsky, Adorno sees in music the
capacity to repeat the relationship between phenomenology and history, while, in
the contradiction between Husserl and Mahler, music stands opposed to phenomenology, provoking an experience of history that phenomenology would suppress or
suspend.
The first of these two themes, Adornos critique of Husserls failed breakout, grows
directly from his broader critique of idealism. Traditionally, a philosophy may be said
to be idealist if it regards the essence of reality as ideal or mind-like, either because it is
available to experience only by way of the mind and its forms (e.g. Kant), or because
reality is ultimately ideal in itself (e.g. Berkeley). Beginning with his Cartesian Meditations, Husserl himself describes his mature phenomenology as a transcendental idealism. Interpretations differ widely as to the nature of the idealism that Husserl avows at
this point in his work, as well as the way it relates to traditional conceptions of idealism, but most interpretations agree that Husserls phenomenology is idealist at least in
the first sense described above, i.e. as idealism on the level of the transcendental subject
or transcendental consciousness that the reduction discloses.6 Adorno, however,
argues that Husserl is an idealist already in his early Logical Investigations. Insofar
as this work deals with purely logical entities, not reducible to nature in the form
of the psyche, Adorno sees it as already idealist in the second sense outlined above,
i.e. as an objective idealism. Thus, Adorno takes Husserls avowal of idealism in the
Cartesian Meditations to be, not a substantial shift in his convictions, but rather the
unfolding of an unacknowledged absolute idealism, concerned both with an ideal
transcendental consciousness, and with the cognition of objective ideal entities.
For Adorno, however, idealism in general, and Husserls idealism in particular, is at
once true and untrue. Idealism is true, he claims, insofar as consciousness does indeed
come to see itself reflected in its others, such that the structure of reality seems to be
ideal insofar as it repeats the structure of consciousness. However, idealism is untrue,
he claims, insofar as this reflection results from the activity of a mind that imposes its
forms upon its others, both practically (by shaping the world into a mirror of consciousness), and theoretically (by knowing the world solely through preexisting
forms, categories, or structures of consciousness). On Adornos account, this imposition is a site of violence. A consciousness that is idealist in this sense falsifies its
objects, which must become for consciousness something they were not in themselves.
It comes to see the world only as a reflection of itself, and in this, it grows imprisoned
in itself. Its experience is impoverished, as the possibility of the new is reduced to preexisting forms of thought and life, and it perpetuates a procrustean violence, as it
shears its objects of their singularity, compelling them to fit prefabricated molds.

394

S.D. Smith

It is in this light that Adorno affirms what he takes to be Husserls attempt at a


breakout. Despite Husserls own explicit avowal of transcendental idealism, Adorno
sees in his phenomenology an effort to break out of the enchanted circle of consciousness. Husserl, he writes, strives mightily to break out of the prison of the immanence of
consciousness, the sphere of constitutive subjectivity (1984, p. 189). Adorno locates
this effort particularly in Husserls method of reduction. We have seen above that,
with the reduction, the phenomenologist suspends any assumptions she may normally
make about the phenomena of her experience. In this suspension, Adorno sees also an
interruption of the minds tendency to impose its forms upon the worldan effort,
that is, not to shape phenomena so that they reflect the forms of the mind, but
rather simply to receive or intuit phenomena as they present themselves. Indeed,
Adorno takes this suspension to be an anti-idealist moment within Husserls idealism.
Husserl, he writes, is anti-idealist in this specific sensenamely, his insistence upon
notions such as intuition is in fact this anti-idealist desire of getting back to the
materials themselves (1940, p. 18).
In Adornos eyes, however, this attempted breakout fails. Even if Husserls reduction
attempts to suspend the capacity of consciousness to shape its experience empirically,
it does so only in order to discern the ways in which consciousness constitutes its
experience transcendentally. And on this level of transcendental constitution,
Huserls idealism remains firmly in place. Behind Husserls method of reduction,
Adorno writes,
there is nothing but the old idealist principle that the subjective data of our consciousness are the ultimate source of all knowledge, and that therefore any fundamental philosophical analysis must be an analysis of consciousness (1940, p. 18).

We might thus say that Husserls attempted breakout begins auspiciously, as it sets
aside empirical concepts, categories, and theses about the world of experience, but
also that it ends where it begins, reiterating the centrality of consciousness in the production of the world.
The second moment of Adornos critique outlined abovehis critique of Husserls
ahistoricismlikewise contains an affirmative moment. Up to a point, Adorno actually affirms Husserls account of the temporality of consciousness. Indeed, for Husserl,
all consciousness is temporal. He writes that time is the universal form of all egological
genesis, and he offers detailed accounts of the manner in which even the experience of
apparently static objects entails a necessary genesis, as consciousness synthesizes the
moments in which it experiences an object over time (1999a, p. 75). In these accounts,
Adorno sees objects appearing, not as timeless or simply present, but rather as results.
He writes approvingly that, under Husserls gaze, the thing as identical object of cognition opens itself up and presents for an instant what its solidity should hide, viz. its
historical accomplishment (1984, p. 216).
However, Adorno argues also that Husserls accounts of the relationship between time
and experience do not go nearly far enough. Although Adorno affirms Husserls account

Contemporary Music Review

395

of the temporal genesis of experience within transcendental consciousness, he critiques


Husserl for offering no account of the historical and social genesis of transcendental consciousness itself. Indeed, Adorno even argues that Husserls capacity to understand the
experience of an apparently static object as a synthetic result should have led him to
understand transcendental consciousness itself as the result of historical syntheses.
Husserl just had to go through the open gate, Adorno writes, in order to find that
the inner historicity which he conceded was not just inner (1984, p. 216). Adorno
thus charges Husserl with an infinitization of the temporalan effort, that is, to
treat finite consciousness as something infinite, something that has not come to be
what it is, something that may not change or pass away (1984, p. 220). In this,
Adorno claims that Husserl misrecognizes conditions of experience that are socially
and historically conditioned, and treats them instead as absolute and immutable
2. Benjamin: Phantasmagoria and History
The second section of this study will demonstrate the way in which these two moments
of Adornos critique of Husserli.e. Husserls failed breakout, and Husserls denial of
historygrow directly from Adornos relationship with Walter Benjamin. In particular, it will argue that this critique may be greatly illuminated through an account of its
relationship with two moments in Benjamins thought: first, his concept of phantasmagoria, as he develops it in his fragmentary Arcades Project; second, his philosophy of
history, particularly as he sketches it in his Theses on the Philosophy of History.
We may begin to understand Benjamins concept of the phantasmagoria through
Marxs concept of commodity fetishism. In the chapter of Capital devoted to this
concept, Marx writes that, in capitalist society, the relationship among commodities
is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the phantasmagorical form of a relation between things (1915, p. 83; emphasis added; translation
modified). Thus, for Marx, fetishized commodities in a capitalist society do not
appear as nodal points in a web of human social relations, but rather as objects that
relate solely to one anothere.g. a table may appear, not as an expression of a relationship between a carpenter and the individual who purchases and uses it, but rather as an
expression only of the tables monetary value, which may be converted in turn into
other commodities. Moreover, for Marx, the occultation of the social relations that
are mediated through commodities means also a mystification of the conditions and
histories of their productione.g. just as the relationship between the carpenter
who made the table and the individual who purchases and uses it disappears in
favor of the tables appearance as an expression of its monetary value, so too do the
hours of concrete labor that the carpenter expended in producing the table; the
table thus appears as a thing, convertible into money or other objects, and not as a
trace of the hands that produced it. In this sense, fetishized commodities, for Marx,
appear to be shorn of their history.
Benjamins concept of phantasmagoria seizes upon a resonance between this structure of commodity fetishism and the workings of an eighteenth century device known

396

S.D. Smith

as a magic lantern. This device, which was itself also called a phantasmagoria, consisted of a cylinder lined with transparent images; in the middle of the cylinder was
a lamp, which would shine light through these images, projecting them onto the
walls of a darkened room. These devices were used in what amounted to magic
shows. In a room full of paying spectators, the operator of the lantern would
produce a series of ghostly images, includingas a climaximages of the recently
deceased (Cohen, 1989). Marxs own language suggests a way in which this device
might be read as an allegory for commodity fetishism, which we have seen him
describe as a phantasmagorical form of a relation between things Just as commodity fetishism mystifies the concrete, historical and social origin of commodities, so too
does the phantasmagoria mystify the origin of its luminous images, which can seem to
be the result of magic, rather than the result of a technical apparatus.
At the same time, however, Benjamins concept of the phantasmagoria also extends
Marxs concept of commodity fetishism in at least two ways. First, Benjamin reorients
Marxs concept so as to describe the production of sense. For Benjamin, the phantasmagoria of the commodity world is not merely ideology, in the sense of something
thought, or thought wrongly. Rather, Benjamin writes that the creations of the commodity world, as objects and forms life, undergo the illumination of the phantasmagoria, not only in a theoretical manner, by an ideological transposition, but also in the
immediacy of their perceptible presence. They are manifest as phantasmagorias (1999,
p. 14). Thus, for Benjamin, the structure of commodity fetishism is not merely a structure of thought, but a structure also of experience broadly conceived, including experience as perception.
Second, Benjamins determination of the phantasmagoria as a production of perceptible presence elaborates also the temporal register of Marxs concept. For Marx,
fetishism mystifies the history of the commodity; it obscures the commoditys origin
in human social life, as well as the concrete labor time congealed in it. And in this
structure of mystification, Benjamin sees also a production of presence as the now
of the commodity and the commodity world. This now, shorn of its history, appears
to have no origin; instead, it appears to be an origin in itself. Just as, for Marx, the
fetishized commodity does not express the history of its production, for Benjmain,
the presence of the phantasmagorical world appears as a now that has not been made.
Moreover, in Benjamins thought, this vanishing of history means also the disappearance of any experience of essential change. The present that appears not to have
been produced appears instead to be eternal and changeless. Thus, quoting Baudelaire,
Benjamin writes of the phantasmagoria of what is always the same, and quoting the
nineteenth century revolutionary, August Blanqui, Benjamin writes of the phantasmagoria of history itselfthe phantasmagoria, that is, of the present eternalized (1999,
pp. 2526). Adorno summarizes this vision of phantasmagorical temporality in his In
Search of Wagner: time, he writes, is the all important element of production that
phantasmagoria, the mirage of eternity, obscures (2009, p. 76).
Adornos critique of Husserl transposes Benjamins concept of the phantasmagoria,
as well as the Marxist concept of commodity fetishism with which it resonates, directly

Contemporary Music Review

397

into a critique of transcendental consciousness. In Husserl, Adorno discerns what he


calls a fetishism of the concept (1984, p. 193). Just as, for Marx, commodities in capitalist society do not express the social relations they embody or the labor time congealed in them, so too, for Adorno, Husserls description of transcendental
consciousness fails to express the human social relations this consciousness reflects,
or the human history in which it has come to be what it is. Thus, Adorno writes
that Husserls phenomenology is thoroughly fetishistic because it forgets that the
transubjective being of logical propositions implies the reification of thought performances, the forgetting of syntheses (1984, p. 194). Husserl, he argues, fixates with
manic obsession on the world of self-made things, a world reduced to eternity and thus
phantasmagorical (1984, p. 163). The world of self-made things is the world of fetish
and phantasmagoria, in which things appear to be self-made because the history of
their production has been shorn from them. The world reduced to eternity is the
world of Husserls reduction, in which the effort to describe transcendental consciousness as it appears to the phenomenologist brackets the possibility of interrogating the
history of its production, thus transposing this consciousness into a mirage of
eternity.
Moreover, on Adornos reading, the temporality of transcendental consciousness, as
Husserl describes it, is phantasmagorical as well. We have seen above that, according to
Adornos critique, Husserls transcendental consciousness is not subject to historical
temporality, even as it constitutes experience in phenomenological temporality. Now,
we may see that this timeless form of temporal experience is phantasmagorical in Benjamins sense: it is an experience of time that itself seems eternal, an experience in which
the way that time is lived seems to be without origin and without the possibility of change
an experience, that is, in which time itself seems to be always the same.
If Benjamins concept of the phantasmagoria and its background in Marxs thought
thus illuminate the structure of Adornos critique of Husserl, then Benjamins philosophy of history accounts for why Adorno should take this critique to be necessary in
the first place. We may locate this layer of Adornos relationship to Benjamin through
two well-known passages from Benjamins Theses on the Philosophy of History. First,
Benjamin writes that the historian must view objects with cautious detachment:
For without exception the cultural treasures he surveys have an origin which he
cannot contemplate without horror. They owe their existence not only to the
efforts of the great minds and talents who have created them, but also to the anonymous toil of their contemporaries. There is no document of civilization which is
not at the same time a document of barbarism. And just as such a document is
not free of barbarism, barbarism taints also the manner in which it was transmitted
from one owner to another. A historical materialist therefore dissociates himself
from it as far as possible. He regards it as his task to brush history against the
grain (1968, pp. 256257).

Just as Marx argues that fetishized commodities in capitalist society do not spontaneously exhibit the history of their production or the labor time congealed in

398

S.D. Smith

them, Benjamin argues that cultural treasures do not exhibit the anonymous toil
without which they could not be produced or transmitted. And for Benjamin, the disappearance of this history means the mystification of historical suffering and exploitation, which are occluded along with the history of objects production.
Second, Benjamins Theses also offer a vivid allegorical image of a historiography
that would address this erasure. In his famous description of Paul Klees Angelus Novus,
Benjamin sees an angel whose face
is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single
catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of
his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has
been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his
wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile
of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress (1968,
257258).

Benjamin thus interprets Klees painting as an image of what it would mean to brush
history against the grain. A dialectical materialist in Benjamins sense would work to
see history as this angel does. She would be concerned with the field of debris that is
discarded with the consolidation of unitary historical narratives, and she would excavate the history that is mystified away by the structures of fetish and phantasmagoria.
In Benjamins philosophy of history, especially as it appears in these passages, we
may discern four moments that illuminate the stakes of Adornos critique of
Husserl, and the role of this critique in Adornos musical thought, to which we will
return in the final section of this study. First, like Benjamins cultural treasure, transcendental consciousness for Adorno is as much a document of barbarism as a document of civilization. If the history of this consciousness is erased or mystified
according to structures of fetish and phantasmagoria, then so too is the historical suffering and exploitation without which, on Adorno and Benjamins account, this consciousness would not have been possible. Thus, Adorno writes that Husserl describes
the right appearance of the wrong world: if his phenomenology is conditioned by
structures of fetish and phantasmagoria, this is not simply an error on Husserls
part, but rather a faithful description of a consciousness that is fetishistic and phantasmagorical in itself, a consciousness sealed within its own ossified forms, a consciousness for which history is mystified, a consciousness for which the present appears as
the mirage of eternity (1984, p. 236).
Second, if Benjamins dialectical materialist must brush history against the grain,
then for Adorno, it is necessary to brush consciousness against the grain as well. Benjamins Theses provide a clue as to what this would mean. Where we perceive a chain
of events, Benjamin writes, [the angel] sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling
wreckage upon wreckage. Throughout Benjamins writings, wreckage, ruins, trash and
junk appear frequently as sites of what Georgio Agamben, in his own interpretations of
Benjamin, calls inoperativitythese are sites where the normal use and exchange of

Contemporary Music Review


7

399

objects are no longer in operation. In such spaces of interruption or suspension, Benjamin sees the possibility of discerning glimpses of the histories and possibilities that
fetishism and phantasmagoria normally foreclose. This study will argue below that,
for Adorno, brushing consciousness against the grain similarly means putting out of
play its normal operation, suspending its smooth function, interrupting the whirring
of its day-to-day machinery.
Third, in the difference between what Benjamins angel sees and what we perceive,
there appears also a difference between two ways of conceiving time. This difference
runs throughout Benjamins Theses. On the one hand, there is time as we perceive
it, which Benjamin also associates with the historicistBenjamin describes this conception of time as a chain of events, beads on a rosary, or a homogenous or empty
container (1968, pp. 257, 263, 264). This is time as fetish and phantasmagoria, time as
the always same or the mirage of eternity. On the other hand, there is a conception
of time that would correspond with the angels view, or with the view that Benjamins
dialectical materialist works to produce. The dialectical materialist, Benjamin writes,
stops telling the sequence of events like the beads on a rosary; it is her task, rather,
to to blast a specific era out of the homogeneous course of historyblasting a specific
life out of the era or a specific work out of the lifework; or, more simply, to blast open
the continuum of history (1968, pp. 263, 262). According to this latter conception of
time, Benjamin writes, the nourishing fruit of the historically understood contains
time as a precious but tasteless seed (1968, p. 263). Benjamins historical materialist
thus does not understand time as an empty form in which things and events
appear. For her, things are not in time; rather, time is in things, as the histories of
their production, the time that is congealed in them (in Marxs sense), or the histories
of which they may be read as traces. In what follows, this study will argue that the
difference between time as we perceive it and the time of Benjamins angel reappears
in Adornos musical thought as the difference between empirical time and musical
time.
Fourth and finally, it is essential to Benjamins dialectical materialist conception of
time that the past can change. As flowers turn toward the sun, he writes, by dint of a
secret heliotropism the past strives to turn toward that sun which is rising in the sky of
history (1968, p. 255). This is not to say, to use Benjamins own example, that the
history of ancient Rome can change so as to become something that never happened.
Rather, it means that the past appears essentially different depending upon the social,
historical and ideological moments in which it is grasped. Thus, Benjamin writes that,
to Robespierre ancient Rome was a past charged with the time of the now which he
blasted out of the continuum of history. The French Revolution viewed itself as
Rome reincarnate (1968, p. 261). For the French Revolution, ancient Rome was something essentially different than it was for the historians (or, in Benjamins eyes, the historicists) of the Ancien Regime: where the latter saw an historical fact, sealed in the past,
the former saw an unrealized possibility, to be actualized in the present.
Moreover, for Benjamins dialectical materialist, the past is subject to change with the
excavation of histories that have been mystified or suppressed by structures of fetish and

400

S.D. Smith

phantasmagoria. With the interruption of the phantasmagoria comes the chance to


unearth forgotten barbarism and unrealized possibility. Adornos philosophy is essentially concerned with these structures of un-forgetting or anamnesis. In Negative Dialectics, he writes that, in interpreting its hardened objects, his philosophy works to
excavate the possibility of which their reality has cheated the objects and which is nonetheless visible in each one (1973, p. 52). And in Aesthetic Theory, he ascribes to art the
capacity to produce this anamnesis in a limited form. Art, he writes, can serve as an
anamnesis of the vanquished, of the repressed, and perhaps of what is possible
(1998, p. 259). The final section of this study will argue that the experience of what Benjamin calls heliotropism is essential to what Adorno calls musical time.
3. Musical Time and Empirical Time: Adorno, Benjamin, Husserl
In the first section of this study, we examined two moments in which Adornos critique
of Husserl appears within his musical thought. When Adorno writes that Stravinsky
and phenomenology (i.e. Husserl) both hope to escape the curse of being merely
mind, he describes Stravinskys music in terms of what he takes to be Husserls
failed breakout. We have seen that, for Adorno, this breakout, even when it is
figured as a breakout of idealism, is an historical probleman effort, that is, to
break out of historically produced and maintained conditions of experience. And we
have seen that, in the light of Adornos inheritance of Benjamins thought, this breakout would also need to be a breakout of fetish and phantasmagoria, modes of experience that mystify history, and treat the present as an origin in itself.
In turn, when Adorno writes that Mahler constrains the image world of his music
to exhibit the movement of history that phenomenology (again, we may read: Husserl)
would gladly forget, he argues that Mahlers music does the work of Benjamins dialectical materialist, or his angel. This music, we may understand Adorno to argue,
brushes historical experience against the grain. It makes possible a limited experience
of temporalities that fetish and phantasmagoria usually suppress. It thus seems no accident that, while Adorno critiques Husserl for his failed breakout, the first chapter of his
monograph on Mahler is devoted to the moment of breakthrough in Mahlers symphonic form (1996, pp. 217).
Indeed, a difference between the use of the words breakout (Ausbruch) and breakthrough (Durchbruch) runs throughout Adornos texts as a sort of partially submerged
technical distinction. When Adorno writes of philosophers whose work he critiques
(e.g. Bergson, Husserl, Heidegger), he often writes of failed breakouts. However, as
we have seen above, when he writes of composers and philosophers whose work he
affirms (e.g. Hegel, Mahler, and, indeed, himself), he often writes of the possibility
of the breakthrough. The breakout is nearly always a failed breakout; only the breakthrough is possible.8
The final section of this study will be concerned with the appearance of this opposition between, on the one hand, fetish and phantasmagoria, and, on the other hand, the

Contemporary Music Review

401

temporality of the breakthrough, as it appears in another moment of Adornos musical


thoughtnamely, his conception of musical time. It will proceed by contrasting
accounts of musical temporality sketched in several of Adornos writings with the
account of temporality that Husserl develops in the lectures gathered as his On the phenomenology of the consciousness of internal time (18931917; published in 1928). At
stake in this reading will be the musical temporality that we have seen in the introduction of this studynamely, a time in which music can take on meaning as something
already past.
Husserls account of temporality proceeds, like his phenomenology in general,
through his method of bracketing or reduction. In this case, he begins his account
with the complete exclusion of every assumption, stipulation, and conviction with
regard to objective time (1991, p. 4). The phenomenologist must thus suspend any
presuppositions she may have about world-time, the real time, the time of nature
in the sense of natural science and even in the sense of psychology as the natural
science of the psyche; instead, she must turn to a description of immanent time,
or the temporality of transcendental consciousness (1991, pp. 45).
Husserl introduces his phenomenological description of immanent time, or the time
of transcendental consciousness, through an account of Franz Brentanos analysis of
the experience of a melody, which Husserl reproduces in detail. In hearing a
melody, he observes, we do not hear absolutely separate, disjunct tones. Rather, if
tones are to be experienced as a melody, they must be held together in consciousness.
At the same time, however, to hear a melody is not to hear a chord. The synthesized
tones are not combined as a single simultaneity. Instead, this synthesis must be structured so as to preserve the distinctness of the tones from one another, while also preserving their order. Moreover, as a melody unfolds, a listener also experiences a series
of expectations, which may or may not be fulfilledshe may, for example, be able to
predict certain events, while others may seem surprising. Thus, hearing a melody
entails, not only the capacity for structured synthesis over time, but also a structured
openness to the future. Finally, Husserl notes also that an entire melody, along with
this system of structured synthesis and expectation, may be repeated in memory
after it has ceased to sound.
Husserl treats Brentanos analysis as a starting point. He argues that, since Brentano
has not developed the phenomenological reduction, he falls short of a fully phenomenological analysis of immanent time consciousness. Instead, Brentano remains bound
to an empirical object (the melody), and an empirical subject (the psychological consciousness of the listener), and, as such, his account remains psychology, not phenomenology. At the heart of Brentanos analysis, however, Husserl does see a
phenomenological core, which he develops further in his own account (1991,
p. 16). Husserl thus passes from Brentanos psychology to his own phenomenology
by bracketing the empirical melody and the empirical psyche of his listener. His
goal is to lay bare the transcendental structure foreshadowed in Brentanos empirical
description.

402

S.D. Smith

Husserl describes this transcendental structurethe structure, that is, of immanent


time consciousnessthrough a well-known triangular diagram, which he calls the
diagram of time (Figure 1).

Figure 1 The diagram of time. Source: Husserl, 1991, p. 29.

On the horizontal axis, Husserl places a continually renewed sequence of new now
points or primal impressions. On the vertical axis, descending below the horizontal,
he charts the retentions or primary memories entailed in the structured synthesis of
temporal experience. With the addition of new now points on the horizontal axis,
retained experiences pass downwards on the horizontal axis. Husserl uses the term
protention to describe the structured openness to the future that Brentano sees as
necessary, and he uses the term secondary memory to describe the capacity to reproduce past experience in memory, with its structure of retentions and protentions. It is
important to note, moreover, that despite Husserls persistent use of a vocabulary that
parses the consciousness of time into points that seem discreet (now points, primal
impressions), he cautions that immanent time consciousness is, in fact
an inseparable unity, indivisible into concrete parts that could exist by themselves
and indivisible into phases that could exist by themselves, into points of the continuity (1991, p. 375).

This continuum, for Husserl, with its structure retentions, protentions, and secondary
memory, is the transcendental structure of inner time consciousness in general.
We may begin to discern the manner in which Adornos understanding of temporality differs from Husserls by examining a passage from Adornos Aesthetic Theory.
Adorno writes:
there is no mistaking time as such in music, yet it is so remote from empirical time
that, when listening is concentrated, temporal events external to the musical continuum remain external to it and indeed scarcely touch it; if a musician interrupts a
passage to repeat it or to pick it up at an earlier point, musical time remains indifferent, unaffected; in a certain fashion it stands still and only proceeds when the course of
the music is continued. Empirical time disturbs musical time, if at all, only by dint of
its heterogeneity, not because they flow together (1998, p. 137).

Contemporary Music Review

403

In several senses, this passage seems, not so much to differ from or critique Husserl,
but rather to echo him. Adornos account of musical temporality seems phenomenological, at least insofar as it is a first-person description of musical experience. Moreover, the difference Adorno describes here between musical time and empirical time
even sounds like a displaced echo of Husserls distinction between objective time
and immanent time. Husserl writes that the original temporal field [or immanent
time] is obviously not a bit of objective time (1991, p. 6). Adorno argues that empirical
time and musical time are heterogeneous and that they do not flow together. But in
this similarity, a difference appears as well. Husserl passes from objective time to
immanent time by way of the phenomenological reduction, which the phenomenologist must perform in order to describe transcendental consciousness. Adornos
account of musical time, however, does not prescribe a reduction. Rather, it seems
to suggest that a suspension of empirical time is already entailed in concentrated listening. The experience of musical time, in this sense, would entail a suspension of
empirical time, or the time of the time of the world. It would entail, that is, something
like Husserls reduction.
What, for Adorno, is the empirical time that musical time would thus interrupt? We
have already seen this abovenamely, Adorno follows Benjamin in seeing the day-today life of capitalist modernity as structured according fetish and phantasmagoria, the
now that is an origin in itself, the semblance of the eversame, the mirage of eternity.
This becomes especially clear in Adornos writings on mass culture or what he and
Horkheimer call the culture industry. Mass culture, he writes, must pay tribute to
time in every one of its products (2001, p. 75). He goes on: The more ahistorical
and preordained its procedures are the more craftily it employs static tricks to
deceive us into seeing new temporal content in what it does (2001, p. 75). In
the same essay, Adorno even writes that empirical time is the most profound
expression of the relations of domination within the field of consciousness (2001,
p. 75). This is the new as the ever-same, mass culture as phantasmagoria, the
culture industry as myth. It is as a description of this form of experience that
Adorno takes Husserls phenomenology to be the right appearance of the wrong
world, the phantasmagoric reflection of a world that is phantasmagoric in itself.
And if, in Adornos thought, the experience of musical time is able to provoke a
suspension of empirical time, then it is this determination of time that it interrupts.
We may specify the stakes of this interruption further by contrasting the status of
memory or retention in Husserls thought and in Adornos. Throughout his analysis
of inner time consciousness, Husserl insists that retained now points or primal
impressions maintain a strict identity as they slide into the past and are held first in
retention, and then in memory. According to Husserl, a tone that has been heard
(along with all the moments of this tone) remains identically the same in the flow
of the modification of the past (1991, p. 70). It is modified insofar as it is pushed
back or sinks back into the past, but it is not modified in its essence. Its temporal
difference, rather, appears solely in its temporal distance from the constantly arising
sequence of new tones or events, new now points or primal impressions. In passing

404

S.D. Smith

from the empirical melody of Brentanos account to the transcendental structure of


immanent time, Husserl makes this same argument of every now point. It is a universal and fundamentally essential fact, he writes, that every now, in sinking back into the
past, maintains its strict identity; the object that appears pushed back remains apperceptively preserved precisely in absolute identity; when the phenomenon recedes into
the past, the now receives the characteristic of being a past now; but it remains the same
now (1991, pp. 64, 68; emphasis added). Thus, for Husserl, temporal events, including
musical events, remain sealed in their self-identity as they slide into the past.
For Adorno, however, the temporality of music may be structured otherwise. In
music, he claims, events held in retention or memory do not necessarily retain a
strict identity, but may instead be altered essentially by what follows them. Thus,
Adorno writes that, in music, an event or situation is able retroactively to shape a preceding development into something awesome even when it was not that in the first
place (1998, p. 184). He sees this structure in the conclusion of Beethovens Piano
Sonata No. 32, Op. 111, which retrospectively conjures up as accomplished facts
details which were never actually there (1998, p. 22). And he argues that the close
of the Arietta variations [again of Op. 111], has such a force of backward-looking,
of leave-taking, that, as if over-illuminated by this departure, what has gone before
is immeasurably enlarged (1998, p. 175). Indeed, this is the same temporal structure
that, in the introduction of this study, we have seen Adorno locate in the development
of the first movement of Beethovens Archduke trio. In Adornos eyes, musics dead
time is not embalmed in mythic identity; rather, it is subject to essential
transformation.
Here, the contrast between Adorno and Husserl may be illuminated by Jacques Derridas own early writings on Husserl. In several texts, Derrida contrasts Husserls
account of retention and secondary memory with a conception of temporality that
appears throughout Freuds writings. Derrida focuses especially on a movement that
Freud calls Nachtrglichkeit, commonly translated as deferred action. For Freud, an
unconscious memory tracethat is, a memory trace that has been produced and
retained without entering consciousnesscan be activated and construed through a
later event (hence deferred action), thus producing an essential change in the way
that the past appears to consciousness. The possibility of this structure is of great
importance to Derridas deconstruction of presence. It is not a matter, Derrida writes
of complicating the structure of time while conserving its homogeneity and its fundamental successivity, by demonstrating for example that the past present and the
future present constitute originarily, by dividing it, the form of the living present.
Such a complication, which is in effect the same that Husserl described, abides, in
spite of an audacious phenomenological reduction, by the evidence and presence
of a linear, objective, and mundane model. Now B would be as such constituted
by the retention of Now A and the protention of Now C; in spite of all the play
that would follow from it, from the fact that each one of the three Now-s reproduces
that structure in itself, this model of successivity would prohibit a Now X from
taking the place of Now A, for example, and would prohibit that, by a delay that

Contemporary Music Review

405

is inadmissible to consciousness, an experience be determined, in its very present, by


a present which would not have preceded it immediately, but would be considerably
anterior to it. It is the problem of the deferred effect (Nachtrglichkeit) of which
Freud speaks. The temporality to which he refers cannot be that which lends itself
to a phenomenology of consciousness or of presence (1974, p. 67).

Derrida thus generalizes an account of temporality that follows the structure we have
seen Adorno locate in musical time. For Husserl, Now A must remain Now A. But for
Derrida, and for Derridas Freud, Now A may retroactively become Now Xjust as
musical temporality is able retroactively (nachtrglich) to shape a preceding development into something awesome even when it was not that in the first place.
Moreover, in this movement of retroactive awakening, musical time comes to contradict what Adorno takes to be the structure of empirical time. We have seen that Adorno
follows Benjamin in seeing the life of capitalist modernity as structured according fetish
and phantasmagoria, the now that seems to be an origin in itself, the semblance of the
ever same, the mirage of eternity. And we have seen also that these determinations
are predicated on a mystification of history. They cannot allow the past to change, or
they can allow it to change only within certain limits. There are certain pasts they
cannot admit. Fetish cannot remain fetish if it admits the commoditys origin in historical, social life, and in the concrete time of human life that is expended in the commoditys
production. Phantasmagoria cannot remain phantasmagoria if it admits a history of
sense and presence. The ever-same cannot allow for a history it cannot absorb in its semblance of changelessness. The mirage of eternity cannot allow for a transience on which it
is predicated. For a consciousness structured by these determinations, to excavate the histories they deny would be to change the past in its essence. And to change the past in this
way, in turn, would mean to challenge, interrupt, or suspend these determinations.
In this sense, the determinations of temporal experience that Adorno and Benjamin
call fetish and phantasmagoria are fully compatible with an account of temporality like
Husserls, in which the past does not change in its essence. For a consciousness conditioned by these determinations, Now A must remain Now A, sealed in its identity,
lodged firmly in its position prior to Now B. The same is true for an idealist consciousness, in Adornos critical, historical sensethat is, a consciousness that knows the
world only through certain historically determined concepts, categories, forms of
life and experience, which it misrecognizes as absolute. Such a consciousness must
know the past as its past. Since it can know the past only through the forms available
to it, an essential change in the past is possible only through an essential change in
these forms. This, as we have seen above, is one way to understand what Adorno
means by a breakthrough: as one set of determinants of life, cognition and experience
gives way to another, consciousness is presented, not only with new ways of knowing
the objects of its present, but also with new ways of inheriting the past, and new ways of
looking towards the future.
Finally, in both of the points outlined abovethe displaced repetition of Husserls
reduction that appears in Adornos musical thought, and the awakening of dead time

406

S.D. Smith

in Adornos conception of musical temporalityAdorno again clearly echoes Benjamin. Adornos displaced repetition of Husserls reduction does the work of Benjamins
messianic cessation of happening, the instant in which the working of the world is
suspended or rendered inoperative, giving rise to the experience of otherwise occluded
memory and possibility (1968, p. 263). Benjamin writes that the dialectical materialist
must blast open the continuum of history; Adorno sees in musical time the capacity
to provoke a suspension of empirical time, a reduction or bracketing of the time of the
phantasmagorical world. In turn, Adornos vision of the temporality of music as an
experience in which the past can be awakened to a new life recalls the view of Benjamins angel, or his dialectical materialist, both of whom wish to excavate, or even reanimate, pasts that have been forgotten or foreclosed. Thus, when Adorno writes of the
backward-looking and leave-taking character of the Arietta variations in Beethovens
Op. 111, a character which over-illuminates what has gone before, it is not difficult to
hear an echo of Benjamins angel. Like this angel, Adornos musical time looks back,
awakening dead time to a new life.
Even for Adorno, this is a weak power. He does not think that all music can produce
this temporality. Indeed, if Adorno aligns Benjamin with Mahler, and Husserl with
Stravinsky, this speaks to the fact that, in his eyes, some music can reflect and reinforce
the temporal determinants of empirical time, while others can challenge or suspend
them, producing an experience of transience according to which even the past can
change. Like Husserls phenomenology, some music would thus be a phantasmagoric
reflection of a phantasmagoric worldindeed, Adorno devotes an entire chapter of his
In Search of Wagner to arguing that Wagners music tends toward phantasmagoria in
itself (2009, pp. 7485). Moreover, even as he locates this structure of time in musical
experience, Adorno sees it sequestered from the world at large, thus producing one of
many moments in his thought in which art, in its form and in its difference from dayto-day reality, is able to produce in microcosm structures of experience that the everyday world would deny. Nor can the production of this musical temporality revoke the
fetishism to which musical works themselves remain subject. Artworks, Adorno
argues, are themselves subject to commodity fetishism; thus, even if the temporal
experience produced by a musical work is structurally opposed to commodity fetishism, this experience is constrained to appear within the borders of an object that is,
nonetheless, necessarily fetishized in itself.9 Finally, whatever capacity music may
have to structure temporal experience must necessarily be as limited as music itself:
just as Benjamins angel is carried away by the storm of progress, every musical
work, event, or experience must end and pass away.
The purpose of this study has not been to endorse Adornos commitments to some
composers, or his critique of others. The effort to determine rigorously the musical
structures that, in Adornos eyes, allow Mahler to produce a temporal experience
like the ones Benjamin imagines, or the compositional details that cause Stravinskys
music to reproduce the structure of what Adorno calls empirical time, would go
well beyond the scope of this study, as would the effort to evaluate whether
Adornos readings of temporality in the work of either of these composers seem

Contemporary Music Review

407

plausible. Neither has this study been an effort fully to reconstruct Adornos critique of
Husserl, or to evaluate this critique with respect to Husserls work in general. This, too,
would entail an investigation that would go well beyond the scope of the present text,
including an engagement with Husserls writings that would need to pass beyond the
limited selection with which Adorno contented himself.
Instead, by reading Adornos engagement with Husserl and its background in Benjamins thought, this study has sought to articulate something about Adornos understanding of the experience of time in day-to-day life, in music, and in the encounter
between them. It has argued that Adorno reads Husserls phenomenology as he
reads Kants philosophynamely, as a coded text, in which the conditions of an historical consciousness can be discerned. It has traced Adornos understanding of this
consciousness back to Benjamin, whose concept of phantasmagoria Adorno uses to
describe both Husserls philosophy and the world it reflects. It has argued that in Benjamin, Adorno also sees the formulation of a way of understanding or experiencing
time that would contradict or even suspend this structure of phantasmagoriathis
is the Messianic time of Benjamins dialectical materialist, and the time of his angel.
Finally, it has argued that Adorno sees in music the possibility of experiencing this
temporality. It is in this sense that Adorno sees music as a script of possible experience,
which has the capacity to suspend the time of the world, and awaken dead time to a
new life.
Acknowledgements
I thank Martin Scherzinger for the opportunity to participate in this issue, and for his patient reading
of the present study. Jairo Moreno has also offered detailed feedback on this study, for which I thank
him as well. I presented a version of this material at the 2009 meeting of the Society for Music Theory.
Most of the present study also appears as Chapter 2 of my doctoral dissertation, The Transfigured
Flesh: Natural History in Theodor Adornos Musical Thought (NYU, 2012).

Notes
[1] For a contrasting interpretation of form and temporality in the first movement of Beethovens
Archduke, see Greene (1982). Adorno and Greene differ substantially in their readings of this
movement. While Adorno takes the work as an abdication in the face of time, with its
backward-looking recapitulation producing in memory something that it seems to mark as
impossible in reality, Greene sees this movement as a normative triumph of a heroic will.
The halting interruptions in which Adorno hears an exhalation of transience appear, for
Greene, to be bumps on the road for a subjectivity that wins out in the end. In this movement,
he writes, [h]eroism has had its way (p. 110). On the drama of Beethovenian retransitions, see
Burstein (2006) and Spitzer (1996).
[2] For an account of Adornos theory of experience and its relationship with Benjamins thought,
see Jay (2005), Songs of Experience: Modern American and European Variations on a Universal
Theme.
[3] For the sake of space, this sketch does not outline the difference between, on the one hand, the
eidetic reduction, which locates within the field of pure mental processes those that are essential, thus reducing from the accidental to the necessary, and, on the other, the transcendental

408

[4]

[5]

[6]

[7]

[8]

[9]

S.D. Smith
reduction, which passes from empirical experience to the transcendental ego or the field of
transcendental consciousness, in which all experience is constituted.
Kane discusses Adornos critique of Husserl in the context of Pierre Schaeffers relationship to
Husserlian phenomenology (2003, pp. 78). Kane marshalls Adornos critique of Husserl in his
own critique of Shaeffers ahistorical view about the nature of musical material (p. 7).
Foster, in his Adorno: The Recovery of Experience, offers a detailed reconstruction of Adornos
critique of Husserls failed breakout attempt (2007, pp. 80104). The account developed in
the present essay differs from Fosters primarily in its focus on temporality. Although Foster
is concerned with Adornos critique of Husserls logical absolutism and the impoverishment
of historical experience reflected in his reduction, the account that follows will be concerned
with the manner in which, for Adorno, Husserls phenomenology fails to address the full
import of historical temporality, a register of Adornos thought that is crucial in understanding the entwinement of his musical thought and his critique of experience. Indeed, it may
well be because Foster does not deal with music that, while dealing wonderfully with Husserls failed breakout, he passes over what Adorno takes to be the real possibility of the
breakthrough.
Ingardens essay, On the Motives which Lead Husserl to Transcendental Idealism (1975) offers a
detailed reconstruction of how Husserl arrived at transcendental idealism in the passage from
his early to his middle works. Unlike Adorno, however, Ingarden takes the early Husserl to be
essentially a realist, not an objective idealist. Philipse (1995), like Adorno, sees Husserl as an
idealist in both an objective and subjective sense, beginning even in his early logical writings.
Finally, Smith (2007, pp. 163164) offers a reasoned summary of various contemporary
views on Husserls idealism, and argues that this idealism is best understood as a noematic
idealism, according to which our experience presents an independently existing, intersubjective world constituted in a concatenation of forms of consciousness or noemata.
See, for one example among many, Agambens materialist reinterpretation of the glorious
body, or the resurrected body of Christian theology: The glorious body is not some other
body, more agile and beautiful, more luminous and spiritual; it is the body itself, at the
moment when inoperativity removes the spell from it and opens it up to a new possible
common use (2011, p. 103).
We may locate this difference in two examples. On the one hand, in addition to his critique of
Husserls failed breakout, Adorno writes also that Heidegger wants to break out of the immanence of consciousness. But his outbreak is an outbreak into the mirror (1973, p. 84, emphasis added). On the other hand, in addition to his affirmation of the breakthrough in Mahler,
Adorno writes in Minima Moralia that [d]ialectical thought is the attempt to break through
the coercion of logic by its own means (1951, p. 150). Adorno does not use these terms
in this systematic relationship every time he uses one or the other, but he is remarkably consistent with this opposition. Many other examples can be discerned throughout his writing.
Musicology has dealt at length with Adornos concept of the breakthrough as a moment in
symphonic form (Buhler, 1996; Monahan, 2011; Spitzer, 2006, especially pp. 71112). And
Foster (2007) has offered a rich account of Adornos understanding of the failed breakout
in Husserl and Bergson. To my knowledge, however, no scholar in music or philosophy
has yet remarked the difference between breakout and breakthrough in Adornos thought,
or the manner in which Adorno uses a musical term to designate the possibility that
Husserl fails to realize.
Adorno writes, for example: The quality of artworks depends essentially on the degree of their
fetishism, on the veneration that the process of production pays to what lays claim to being selfproduced, to the seriousness that forgets the pleasure taken in it. Only through fetishism, the
blinding of the artwork vis-a-vis the reality of which it is part, does the work transcend the
spell of the reality principle as something spiritual (1998, p. 341).

Contemporary Music Review

409

References
Adorno, T. (1940). Husserl and the problem of idealism. The Journal of Philosophy, 37(1), 518.
Adorno, T. (1951). Minima Moralia: Reflections on a damaged life. New York: Verso.
Adorno, T. (1973). Negative dialectics. New York: Continuum.
Adorno, T. (1984). Against epistemology: A metacritique. Studies in Husserl and the phenomenological
antimomies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Adorno, T. (1996). Mahler a musical physiognomy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Adorno, T. (1998). Aesthetic theory. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota University Press.
Adorno, T. (2001). The culture industry. New York: Routledge.
Adorno, T. (2002). Beethoven: The philosophy of music: Fragments and texts. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.
Adorno, T. (2006). Philosophy of new music. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota University Press.
Adorno, T. (2009). In search of Wagner. London: Verso.
Agamben, G. (2011). Nudities. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Benjamin, W. (1968). Illuminations. New York: Schocken.
Benjamin, W. (1999). The arcades project. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Buhler, J. (1996). Breakthrough as critique of form: the finale of Mahlers first symphony. 19th
Century Music, 20(2), 125143.
Burstein, P. (2006). Recomposition and retransition in Beethovens string quintet, Op. 4. The Journal
of Musicology, 23(1), 6296.
Cohen, M. (1989). Walter Benjamins Phantasmagoria. New German Critique, 45, 87107.
Derrida, J. (1974). Of grammatology. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Foster, D. (2007). Adorno: The recovery of experience. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Greene, D. (1982). Temporal processes in Beethovens music. New York, NY: Gordon and Breach,
Science Publishers, Inc.
Husserl, E. (1991). On the phenomenology of the consciousness of internal time (18931917).
Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Husserl, E. (1998). Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and a phenomenological philosophy.
Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Husserl, E. (1999a). Cartesian meditations. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Husserl, E. (1999b). Phenomenological psychology and transcendental phenomenology. In
D. Welton (Ed.), The essential Husserl: Basic writings in transcendental phenomenology
(pp. 322336). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Ingarden, R. (1975). On the motives which lead Husserl to transcendental idealism. The Hague:
Martinus Nijjoff.
Jay, M. (2005). Songs of experience: Modern American and European variations on a universal theme.
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Kane, B. (2003). LObjet Sonore Maintenant: Pierre Schaeffer, sound objects and the phenomenological reduction. Organized Sound, 12(1), 1524.
Marx, K. (1915). Capital: A critique of political economy, Vol. I. Chicago, IL: Charles H Kerr and Company.
Monahan, S. (2011). Success and failure in Mahlers sonata recapitulations. Music Theory Spectrum,
33(1), 3758.
Philipse, H. (1995). Transcendental idealism. In B. Smith & D. W. Smith (Eds.), The Cambridge
companion to Husserl (pp. 239322). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Smith, D.W. (2007). Husserl. New York: Routledge.
Spitzer, M. (1996). The retransition as sign: Listener-oriented approaches to tonal closure in Haydns
Sonata-Form movements. Journal of the Royal Music Association, 121(1), 1145.
Spitzer, M. (2006). Music as philosophy: Adorno and Beethovens late style. Bloomington, IN: Indiana
University Press.